In the Spotlight: Wyman Lai, M.D.

A nationally-recognized pediatric cardiologist with expertise in fetal cardiology and non-invasive imaging for heart disease in fetuses and children has joined CHOC Children’s. Dr. Wyman Lai is the new medical director of echocardiography at CHOC; co-medical director of the CHOC Heart Institute, and assistant division chief of cardiology with CHOC Children’s Specialists.

“CHOC has a fabulous mix of state-of-the-art care, community presence, and academic achievement. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues, who strive to provide the very best care available. The administrative staff at CHOC has also been extremely supportive. Together we are building a pediatric service that rivals any in the region, and we have our sights on even higher goals,” Dr. Lai says.

Dr. Lai’s passion for helping others inspired him to become a doctor. His original plan was to go into academic primary care pediatrics, and he majored in maternal and child health for his Master of Public Health degree. Early in his training, he switched to pediatric cardiology after becoming fascinated with what the pediatric cardiologists were doing.

“In pediatric cardiology, we are able to make a profound difference in the lives of our patients. With our surgical colleagues, we have made incredible advances in life-saving therapies over the past five decades,” Dr. Lai says. “The heart is an amazingly complex organ; it starts off as a simple tube, and it’s a wonder that it ever develops normally into a four-chambered pumping organ that delivers oxygen efficiently throughout our body.”

Dr. Lai attended medical school at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He completed his residency at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, followed by a pediatric cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and later, a pediatric cardiology MRI fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Since joining CHOC, Dr. Lai has been treating patients with complex congenital heart disease. He is also treating patients with the full spectrum of heart conditions, from heart murmurs to chest pain and syncope.

Dr. Lai’s approach towards his patients and their families is to treat them like family members.

“As with all families, however, not everyone is the same,” he explains. “Some patients and parents want more medical information and some less. Some want to be very involved in the decision-making process and some not so much. My practice is to provide them with enough information and support, so they feel comfortable with the decisions they are making.”

Along with Drs. Nita Doshi and Pierangelo Renella, Dr. Lai is helping to build a great program in fetal cardiology at CHOC. He is also working with Dr. Renella to grow the congenital cardiac MRI program, including the use in non-invasive imaging for creating 3D heart models.

“We recently used a 3D cardiac MRI dataset to print several heart models that were used to assist in the planning of care for a child with complex congenital heart disease. Another area of innovation is our purchase of new patient monitoring software in the cardiovascular ICU that will help us to identify patients at risk for acute deterioration before it happens,” Dr. Lai says.

In April, Dr. Lai will serve as co-program director for an inaugural conference hosted by CHOC, Pacific Coast Fetal Cardiology 2017: An Interactive and Case-Based Educational Symposium, in Newport Beach. The conference supports CHOC’s efforts to improve the success of fetal cardiac screening in the region, he says.

Dr. Lai is a prolific author who has published numerous journal articles and chapters, and has contributed to several high-level textbooks utilized throughout the country. He has lectured extensively in the United States and internationally. Dr. Lai is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Society of Echocardiography, and American Academy of Pediatrics, among other professional organizations. In addition, he sits on the National Board of Echocardiography Board of Directors.

His ongoing academic interests include creating a reliable set of normal values for cardiovascular structures in newborns and children, developing pediatric cardiac MRI guidelines, and testing new cardiac MRI sequences.

In his spare time, Dr. Lai loves spending time with his family. He also enjoys swimming, biking and running. He hopes to run in this year’s Boston and New York marathons, which he has participated in the past. He is also attending classes for a health care executive MBA at UC Irvine.

For cardiology referral guidelines, click here. To refer a patient, call 888-770-2462. 

To contact Dr. Lai, please call 714-509-3939.